3 Long-Form Copywriting Tricks You Should Steal

By , February 18th, 2013 in A/B Testing, Landing Pages | 22 comments
Unbounce-Long-Form-Short-Copy-wwwpositsciencecom
Short copy can be just as powerful as long. (Image source)

Long-form sales pages are ugly. Most businesses feel icky about the very prospect of landing their prize traffic on – shudder – long copy.

It doesn’t seem to matter that long-form sales pages work like a charm in countless cases, for a wide range of products and audiences… not just for the late-night, miracle-cure, impulse-shopper club. Doesn’t matter. They’re ugly. They feel icky. You don’t want anything to do with them.

But did you know that some of the highest-converting short copy on the web today is based on simple long-copy principles? True story. So let’s take a look at just 3 landing page copywriting tricks you can steal from long copy today – and test on your own short-copy landing page.

Testable Landing Page Copy Trick 1:
Center and Bold Your Headline

This is a super-obvious trick… but it’s (surprisingly) rarely used in short copy design.

Long-form sales copywriters know damn well that your page is nothing without a stellar headline that:

  • Is prominently positioned on the page
  • Taps into a pain or problem – and takes the time to bring that pain to life
  • Includes at least 1 specific outcome/benefit
  • Uses captivating words, phrases and rhetorical devices (like onomatopoeia)

Compare that to short copy. Most short copy landing pages cram a headline into 300 pixels shoved off to the side of an image. Which usually leaves you with space for about 3 to 5 words. Which means you can’t say anything specific – and you have to use ultra-short, bland words.

You don’t have to write an insanely long headline like they do in the long-copy world. But you should test centering and bolding your headline at the top of your page. This is one of the first recommendations I make to every client I have. For example, check out the before and after for my client’s website InspirePay.com:

BEFORE – Free conversion of 3%
Headline Before

AFTER – Free conversion of 18.7%After home page

Now, the reason this new version has so strongly outperformed the original likely has more to do with the words in the headline than the physical positioning of it. But the takeaway here is that if people are able to find and read your most important message (i.e., your headline), they are more likely to consume it and make decisions with it. If a visitor can’t find your key message, they can’t consume it… and conversion could be negatively impacted. Hence, test physical positioning.

So don’t treat your landing page headline like this:

landing page copywriting

But, rather, treat it like this:

Long copy rules for short copy pages

Testable Landing Page Copy Trick 2:
Use Meaty, Detailed Testimonials

While long-form sales pages are made powerful by unmissable cascading waterfalls of testimonials, short copy too often edits all the juicy details out of testimonials. Think of testimonials as mini-stories or studies – not just a line of “social proof”.

Now, you probably don’t need a “waterfall of testimonials” on your landing page, but you should aim for:

  • Meaningful testimonials that include at least 1 specific detail – ideally describing the before-and-after experience of using your product or service
  • A photo alongside every second testimonial
  • A short ‘summary header’ above each testimonial, which should describe a takeaway that scanning eyes can grasp quickly
  • Testimonials from people that your ideal customer either relates to or aspires to be like

If you use video testimonials – and kudos to you if you do – give your landing page visitors a text-based taste of what’s inside the video by using a caption… so they’ve got a reason to click and watch. Here are some representative long-copy testimonials from Ramit Sethi’s Dream Job 2.0 sales page:

Ramit Sethi Testimonials on Long Copy Landing Page

Ramit Sethi Testimonials Long Copy Sales Page Testing

And here’s how I used the best of long-copy testimonial treatment on a key short copy landing page for Energy Market Exchange:

Testing testimonials on short copy - EMEX

SIDE TIP: Need to get testimonials? Need photos to go alongside them? Simply ask for them – that works more often than not. Reply to “happy customer” emails with a request to use their words as a testimonial, with the proposed testimonial written right there in the email. For best results, include the benefit for the customer: I’ll happily include a link to your site – which is great for SEO – with your testimonial and photo.

Testable Landing Page Copy Trick 3:
Directly Break Thru One Major Objection

Do you know why long copy is so damn long? It’s not because the writers don’t know how to edit themselves. (At least, not always.)

It’s because long copy gives you the space you need to tackle objections and neutralize anxieties one by one.

In the short copy world, we’re so busy telling ourselves that people don’t read.. and they only scan.. and they’re too busy for you… and they’d rather have a video – and, and, and, blah, blah, blah – that we end up summarizing all of the points our visitors need us to spell out for them. In an effort to keep things short and scannable, we imply half the story, put only the softest messages on the page and end up saying nothing at all. Ugly ol’ long copy runs around converting at 10%, and we’re happy when our short copy converts at 2%.

But is it any wonder why short copy fails to sell most of the time? It’s not doing any convincing!

You’ve GOT to help your target market or segment overcome its biggest objections to choosing you. I’d like you to overcome as many objections as possible on your landing page, but let’s start with just one. And let’s use an example to get you there: I recently helped App Design Vault optimize their site, including their home page, which doubles as a landing page for many of their ads, emails, etc. The control used the following body copy:

Short copy summarizes too often

The headlines in that control copy are your typical short-copy headlines. “Saves you time and money”. “Professional look and feel”. “Up and running in minutes”. Soft, soft, soft.

You need to push past the obvious, bland messages you read everywhere. You need to figure out what your visitors’ biggest objections are, and take them apart. Piece by piece. On the page. That’s exactly what I did in the following copy, which we tested against the above control:

Short copy that steals from long copy

The objection: Visitors believed they could design their own app – so they didn’t need to invest in the app designs on App Design Vault. And, if they were going to invest, they weren’t going to spend $70 on an app template. We knew we had to take the time to spell out exactly what was wrong with such thinking.

The copy: We listed out the actual hours that a developer might spend on designing their own app… and we did simple calculations – right on the page – to show how much time-as-money our visitor could waste by not spending $70 today.

The result: We increased paid conversions by 51%.


You don’t have to write or design an “ugly” long-form landing page to realize the benefits of long copywriting. Small tweaks like those shown here can bring you big results. So take 10 minutes today to:

  1. Write a meaty headline for your landing page, and center and bold it at the top of the page
  2. Email 2 people that have given you testimonials, and ask them if you can use X photo of them (which you should be able to find by googling them) on your site

Then, set aside an hour this week to write new copy that breaks thru an objection you know visitors have. If you don’t know what their biggest objections are, you can use pop-up survey tools like Qualaroo to ask questions that could help you better understand; alternatively, if you use click-tracking on your landing page, you may be able to identify areas that people want to know more about simply by seeing where they’re clicking.

When tested, these 3 small to-dos could yield conversion rates that at least come within the vicinity of the average long-copy conversion rate.

– Joanna Wiebe


About The Author

Photo of Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe is a conversion-focused copywriter and the founder of Copy Hackers, where startups learn to write copy. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter and follow her on Twitter.
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Comments

  1. Ken E Baker says:

    Hi Joanna, thanks for the article. I am looking into building a landing page at the moment, and I really like the example you supplied for the personal payment site. It’s very clear and simple – and a bit frightening how it increased the conversion from 3 to 19%!!

    • Joanna Wiebe says:

      Yeah, the conversion lift was pretty insane on that site. What’s especially insane is that the lift has stayed consistently high since we first created the test in early 2012. A year of converting at a crazy amount (compared to where it was) says a lot — this wasn’t just a fluke. :) Good luck with your landing page!

  2. [...] Yönlendirme sayfası metin testleri – Landing page copy tests [...]

  3. [...] 3 Long-Form Copywriting Tricks to Test on Your Short Copy Landing Pages, unbounce.com [...]

  4. yassin says:

    Just Amazing !

    Very useful conversion tactics…Thanks

    Yassin

  5. Rene says:

    “In 13 minutes i saved my client 100.000 dollars”
    That guy wins every Thomas Magnum look a –
    like contest :D soory …

  6. [...] Long-form copywriting suffers from an unjustified taboo. Some websites need to have their copy written in long-form but most writers shudder at the very thought of it. Instead, they opt for short-form copywriting which destroys the purpose entirely. This problem can be taken care of by learning a couple of great tips and tricks for long-form copywriting which will make your job much easier than it is now. Read more at Unbounce. [...]

  7. Copywriting says:

    Great information. Understanding the type of copywriting that converts has always intrigued me. Unfortunately if you don’t get lots of web traffic or conversions its difficult to get conclusive results. Do you have any ideas on other ways to test content?

  8. [...] 2. 3 Long-Form Copywriting Tricks You Should Steal [...]

  9. Ruben says:

    I L.O.V.E. this article! Awesome job Joanna. I really like how you cut through the big reasons why people dismiss long copy, but instead show why it works and how it fits in short copy. I’m sure with clients getting that ‘eek!’ factor with ugly long form, clients give big sighs of relief.

    What puzzles me is why would anyone choose short form at 2% conversion over long form at 10% conversion. At its core, it’s conversion you want, so why would you let the ugly factor get in the way?

  10. B says:

    Good article.

    (But “thru”? Seriously???)

  11. Ania Maclain says:

    I LOVE. this article!
    Awesome job Joanna.
    I really like how you cut through the big reasons why people dismiss long copy, but instead show why it works and how it fits in short copy.

  12. I just like the valuable information you supply for your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check once more here regularly. I’m fairly certain I’ll learn many new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the next!

  13. By using these techniques i am seeing much difference, thanks for great information Joanna!!

  14. Steven Bell says:

    Joanna, You have shared the best technique of copy writing, Will definitely help in my writing more far better than Neil techniques which he shared on his last month blog.

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  17. Dawn Lanier says:

    Thanks for the informative post Joanna! I’ve needed a landing page for some of my products but really didn’t want to do the typical never ending long form sales page variety. Your tips just made my life a lot easier!

  18. Love the design app example, Joanna. Do you have any suggestions for the kind of questions you should ask in surveys to understand customers’ objections better?